June 5, 2006
By CHARLES STANNARD, Courant Staff Writer
The flag of Puerto Rico flew under cloudy skies Sunday as the state's 43rd annual Puerto Rican Day Parade drew thousands to downtown Hartford.
The parade, which alternates each year between Hartford and New Haven, has become a June tradition for Hispanic residents from all parts of the state. The number of school marching bands and floats from New Haven and surrounding towns almost matched the number of contingents from Hartford as the parade moved north on Main Street and finished on the north side of Bushnell Park.
Edward Rivera came to Hartford from Waterbury with his mother, girlfriend and young daughter. He said he tries to attend the parade each year "to support my heritage."
Nelson Martinez of Hartford, who said he turns out for the parade each year, called it "a fantastic event. It's about a beautiful culture and beautiful people."
The parade, which began at Colt Park, was led by a contingent of Puerto Rican officers from the Hartford Police Department. A group of firefighters also drew cheers from the crowd as it marched north on Main Street. The Hartford school system was heavily represented in the procession, with the Hartford Public High School's City Band and cheerleaders from Bulkeley High School. A group of students from Maria Colon Sanchez Elementary School carried signs supporting school uniforms.
The two rivals for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in the Aug. 8 primary each led a contingent. New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr., dressed casually and wearing a straw hat, greeted the crowd from a perch on the left front bumper of a large flatbed truck. Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy marched the entire route with a group of supporters, occasionally waving a Puerto Rican flag to the crowd.
The flag, which displays a lone white star in a blue triangle, along with alternating red and white stripes, was everywhere Sunday. It was displayed on floats and on cars and waved by hundreds of spectators along the parade route. Some observers draped the flag around their shoulders; others fashioned it into a bandana or scarf.
The theme of this year's parade was improving and preserving the health of the state's Latino community. The parade's grand marshal was Dr. Gualberto Ruano, a geneticist who runs Genomas, a Hartford-based biomedical firm that uses DNA to "guide and customize" medical services for people, particularly Hispanics. Ruano, whose company is working closely with Hartford Hospital on health services for Latinos, said he was asked to serve as grand marshal by the statewide parade committee.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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